A Little About Us

We've had a lot of new people join the Pillow Talk family lately, so we wanted to share a little bit about ourselves and why we're here.

 

Who are we?

We are Little Riot, a small team of researchers and designers working to make things that help you to feel more connected to your loved ones, when you can't be with them. 

Pillow Talk has been in the making for the past 7 years. We hail from Scotland and are currently based in London where we work with the developers and partners who make the Pillow Talk magic happen! 

Pillow Talk started as a university project by our founder, Joanna. When the story went viral on the internet, Joanna realised she had come up with something that could truly make a difference to a lot of people around the world. As with most start-up journeys, it has been a long and exciting - sometimes scary - process from an idea to a real product. We have learned a lot and met some really wonderful people who have inspired us to battle through to where we are today.


Why do we care?

Our drive comes from personal experience; a frustration around the way we currently use technology to communicate. We connect with our loved ones mainly via messaging or video calls, on tiny screens. In our super-connected world, we want to make things that are warm and human; products that are part of life instead of interrupting it. We want people to be able to lie in bed with someone they love, even if they're on the other side of the world. 

There have been many iterations of Pillow Talk to get it to the way it works and looks today.  Research has shown that the presence of the heartbeat creates a stronger bond between two people; this is why Pillow Talk enables such an intimate interaction, even when hundred of miles apart. We have talked to a lot of people who spend time apart;  we’ve tested with prototypes and had lots of positive and surprising feedback. One of our testers was epileptic and found the heartbeat reduced fitting during the night! 

We are also setting up pilots with children’s hospitals to connect premature babies and sick children with their parents. We have created something that is genuinely wonderful and we are so proud and grateful for the contribution we are able to make to the world. 
 

Building Pillow Talk 

During our journey, we've been lucky enough to secure various grants and investment which has allowed for research and product development. And finally, after running a crowdfunding campaign in late 2015, we managed to start the process of putting Pillow Talk into production. We have discovered that manufacturing a hardware product is not as smooth sailing as we’d envisioned, and various hiccups and oversights along the way have often led to delays in areas outside of our control.

This has been particularly difficult as a great number of our customers were expecting their Pillow Talks to be delivered in 2016. We've always regretted having to deliver bad news of delays - as you can imagine, we too have always looked forward to seeing the product finished! 


And now, we're almost there

Over the course of 7 years, Pillow Talk has gone from an idea and a sketch, to where we are today. We are lucky to work with a competent team who always ensure the product is made to high international standards. We've spent several months in China this year, overseeing the set up and the details of the production line. 

Pillow Talks start rolling out this week. We eagerly await to be able to connect thousands of people all over the world. 

Thank you for being part of our journey. Your purchase doesn't line the pockets of a huge corporation, it is making a dream come true. We are a tiny company who work every day to try and manage every aspect of the business (it's why we sometimes fall short). 

We genuinely appreciate each and every order we receive and we are so grateful for your support. 

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Scenes from the Assembly Line

Pillow Talk's trial assembly run has happened and it went mostly to plan! So other than some of the small changes that I mentioned in a previous update, our factory is mostly happy with how things are proceeding. 

What happens now?

Right now, a lot of things are happening. We're back in the UK to leave our Chinese team to get on with their work. We made 100 units in China, half of which we brought back to the UK for testing.

The other half of the units are with a safety testing lab, where they are undergoing a series of tests. As well as the CE marking and FCC approval our product undergoes to be safe for you guys to use, the factory has to conduct some other tests - such as ensuring if the product is dropped, it still works. Or checking that a pallet of products in a box can withstand the vibrations they will be subject to in transit. 

We have ordered all of the parts for the mass production. Everything is made in different places - the plastics, the electronics etc, and then all the parts are sent to the assembly house, where the products are built and packed in their boxes. 

Our assembly starts on the 20th November. The plan is for all of the products to be assembled and boxed by the 25th, and then to begin shipping units out w/c 27th. Fingers crossed everything goes well. 

Scenes from the assembly line

Speaker lids

Speaker lids

Puck tops

Puck tops

Electronics

Electronics

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The next time you hear from us will be in a couple of weeks, when we'll be back in China watching THOUSANDS of Pillow Talks being assembled. Eeeek! 

With love,
Joanna and The Little Riot Team
xxx

A Personal Update

Dear all,

Slightly more of a personal update this time around. I’ve reached out to one or two of you already and, as I was writing those emails, I figured that maybe I should just be as candid with all of you. 

I understand how frustrating it is when something you have purchased is delayed. I know it sucks to have paid for something and feel like you might never receive it. This obviously isn’t something I wanted; the delays, the setbacks... they are frustrating to me too. 

Every time we post an update or email our mailing list, we receive negative comments and - sometimes - full on hate mail.

The messages I receive range from being called a ‘crook’ and other various expressions of anger, all the way through to the occasional extreme individual such as the one who contacted me via my personal email address and assured me he would “find out where I live and hunt me down”. 

And sometimes, when I read these things, it can feel like being kicked in the face. It kills me to read things like "this is obviously never going to happen". 

It’s been 7 years since Pillow Talk was an idea that went viral on the internet. It was my university project and I started trying to make it a real product because so many people contacted me and asked if they could buy one. I grossly underestimated how difficult it would be. It was 2010; technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is now and I was an inexperienced graduate fresh out of university. Platforms like Kickstarter didn’t really exist - and they didn’t exist because consumer electronics were built by the Apples and Microsofts of the world; not by us little guys. From day one, turning Pillow Talk from an idea into a real product has been an uphill battle. I will write about it all in depth some day, but I am sure I have had more than my fair share of setbacks!

There is a public-facing front that Little Riot puts out to the world but the reality is that - for a lot of this journey anyway - I have been one person trying to come good on a promise that I made to thousands of people. There have been a lot of setbacks along the way, which I guess I could be more transparent about sometimes, but I’ve been working on Pillow Talk for 7 years now. It’s all I do, day-in, day-out. I’ve never earned a salary, I’ve never taken any money out of the business; I keep a roof over my head by speaking at conferences and doing freelance work for other companies. My entire “career” to date has been Pillow Talk, and the fact I have taken money from people and not yet shipped them a product keeps me awake at night. 

I can understand your side of this experience, so I wanted to try and give you a glimpse into mine. There have been hundreds of times when it would have made more sense to give up, but it’s important to me that I don’t let down either my moral integrity, or all of you. 

My biggest failing throughout this process has been not giving you all regular enough updates, and for that I apologise. When things are hard, it's easier to say nothing than to tell the truth and I should have been better than that. 

Please know how grateful I am to each and every one of you who has pre-ordered a product, some of you over a year ago now. And please know it’s not something I take lightly; I carry the weight of it around with me every day. 

Fortunately, for every disappointed message there is someone who has sent a lovely one, so thank you to all of you who show so much kindness and compassion towards me. Your messages keep me going when things get tough. 

Pillow Talk is something I have poured myself into for years. Please do not worry about never receiving your Pillow Talk; I will never give up on this and I will not rest until it is done. And whilst it has taken far, far longer than I ever could have anticipated, I am proud of it. I am proud of the way it makes people feel when they use it. I am proud of the difference it makes. And I hope you will all love it as much as I do when you receive yours.

Best wishes, 
Joanna

Pillow Talk Heads into Pre-Production!

Hello from China! 

This week was what we call a "pre-production" run. This is a small manufacturing run of around 100 units, which is done as a trial run to test the entire process, end-to-end. It's basically a way to check everything - from the individual pieces, through to the process we use to put the product together.


On the ground in China

One of the most interesting things about finally being in China is meeting all of the people who work on Pillow Talk every day. These are people we have spent months (nearly two years, in fact) talking to via email, video call etc, who are responsible for the day-to-day process of manufacturing Pillow Talk. 

It's also been fascinating to really understand the whole process of producing Pillow Talk. Obviously we had a fairly reasonable understanding of what was involved, but it's very different to see it all happening in real life!
 

Visiting the factories

Pre-production involves making a lot of little decisions. And when we say a lot, by that I mean the decision making is constant and unrelenting. A lot of time this week has been spent assessing the items that have been made so far, and either approving them or requesting changes. 

Packaging
The first place we visited was the packaging factory. We were shown round and they explained how they make Pillow Talk's boxes! 

Box assembly line

Box assembly line

Our week of decision making began here, when they handed us three giant booklets of paper samples and said "please choose which paper you want your instruction leaflet printed on". Oh, okay then...!

White paper starts to look the same after a while

White paper starts to look the same after a while

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So all in all, we think our packaging is looking pretty good. 

Product
Next up, we visited the plastics factory, where they use injection moulding to produce the plastic elements of Pillow Talk.

Here is Joanna with our "tooling", which is effectively the big lumps of steel they use as moulds for our plastic. It probably looks quite underwhelming, but what you see in this photo is where about 50% of the money we received from our Kickstarter campaign went...! 

These lumps of metal are probably the most expensive thing we own

These lumps of metal are probably the most expensive thing we own

The tooling also took a staggering six weeks to make. We never understood why (and it felt like an eternity when we were waiting), but in the factory we learned how they mill away the metal in a way that only removes 1mm of the surface every hour. 

A closer look at the tool

A closer look at the tool

The Mixing Man

It's an interesting process - the colour of the plastic is produced by assembling the correct ratio of small coloured pellets. You can see here in the photo, he has a little scale on which he weighs out the ratio of each colour. With every new test shot in the mould, they note down the combination and ratios of colours used to make the final plastic mix. 

We took each sample out into the daylight, reporting back if it needed to be "more blue", "less brown", etc. Eventually we ended up with a shortlist of options.

 

50 shades of grey

50 shades of grey

The good news is that we finally mixed the correct colour, and the new batch of plastics were produced the next day. 

What's next?

As I write this, our assembly factory is doing the final assembly on our first 100 units. At the end of this week we have a big review meeting with the entire manufacturing team to discuss all elements of the process to confirm any final changes. We will discuss everything any final tweaks to the product, as well as any production issues that cropped up in the trial runs. 

Final assembly takes place tomorrow, so more news and photos to follow soon!

With love,
Joanna and the Little Riot Team
xxx

June Update from Little Riot HQ

June Manufacturing Update

Hi everyone,

Just a short update this time around, but wanted to keep you all in the loop.

Manufacturing

We were expecting to receive our final samples at the end of May but they were delayed by 10 days due to some unforeseen blips. However, these have now been finished and are winging their way to us from China! 

Excitingly, we are expecting these to be the final samples. We've spent months studying stitching, creasing folds in cardboard, flexing cables and polling our friends and family on the 'matt or glossy? packaging debate.

 

What happens next?

When we approve these samples (hopefully as soon as we receive them!) we tell the factory to go ahead and make the 'tooling'. The tooling consists of all the things the factory needs to manufacturing the product: the moulds for the plastic casing, the cutting shape for the fabric, jigs for testing the PCBs etc. 

 

We're expecting to place the tooling order within the next week or two. Once we do this, the manufacturing process will be officially underway and we will be within weeks of heading to China!

When the tooling is complete (circa 8 weeks) we make a small batch of products - around 100 units. These units are mostly sent off to be used and abused in the safety testing and certification procedures, but we will likely use some of them for some final user testing. More to follow on this in another update - we will likely need some volunteers! 

We expect to begin the mass production run about 4 weeks after the tooling is complete.

We're almost there!

With love,
Joanna and The Little Riot Team
xxx 

LDR Tips-Talking about long distance struggles

Be sure to talk about the issues and niggles which comes up, chances are you are experiencing the same challenges from afar. Telepathic?! Be honest about how you feel things are going so you can address things which come up together :-)

Switchboard

We have customers and friends with long distance relationships all over the world, we are always excited to see what country combinations arrive into our inboxes! Time differences, expensive travel fares, busy schedules, friends and family, jobs, school, holidays, the list goes on, life is full on. Sometimes we just miss our other half. We talk to lots of couples, and families in long distance and everyone has their own tactics and strategies. We share tips and suggestions here. We would love to hear more the ways you tackle long distance relationships!

Fall asleep next to each other

What our customers say..


We know that communication is important in relationships, especially when you are separated from each other for long periods of time. We are due to ship Pillow Talk to 42 countries so far and our customers really know how to get in touch with the right messages  and encouragement!

Pillow Talk

As we all know, are long-distances very hard for couples to keep the physical contact in balance if you don't meet your partner for many weeks. So I am looking and so much-needed a gadget which helps my boyfriend and me to “fall asleep next to each other” even with the big distance.

(Teuta)

Behind the scenes at Little Riot HQ

We work with a team in China who oversee Pillow Talk production. This has been a long process of trial and error and we have gone through a few iterations till we reached the final versions. We just received final samples with only a couple of details needing changed so we will be hitting go on mass production soon! (eek!)

Pillow Talk samples for testing!   

Pillow Talk samples for testing! 

 

After some long years of building, sampling and testing prototypes we are pleased to share that the product it a joy to use. The speaker is phenomenal - far better than anything we built ourselves during the prototype stage. We can't wait until you can use it to feel connected to your loved ones!

Pillow Talk set

Pillow Talk set

What's next?

We're expecting to receive a final, finished, polished set of samples within the next 3-4 weeks. Once this is signed off, we can head into the production set up. Words cannot tell you how excited we are about this! 

LDR Tips- Feeling relationship security

Foster a sense of stability in your relationship by discussing and planning its future. Plan as a team working through a geographical separation with the same goals to feel more grounded and certain about your relationship.

 

(We found these cute tshirts on Etsy- https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/252030058/what-is-your-number-couple-t-shirts ) We have customers and friends with long distance relationships all over the world, we are always excited to see what country combinations arrive into our inboxes! Time differences, expensive travel fares, busy schedules, friends and family, jobs, school, holidays, the list goes on, life is full on. Sometimes we just miss our other half. We talk to lots of couples, and families in long distance and everyone has their own tactics and strategies. We share tips and suggestions here. We would love to hear more the ways you tackle long distance relationships!

(We found these cute tshirts on Etsy- https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/252030058/what-is-your-number-couple-t-shirts )

We have customers and friends with long distance relationships all over the world, we are always excited to see what country combinations arrive into our inboxes! Time differences, expensive travel fares, busy schedules, friends and family, jobs, school, holidays, the list goes on, life is full on. Sometimes we just miss our other half. We talk to lots of couples, and families in long distance and everyone has their own tactics and strategies. We share tips and suggestions here. We would love to hear more the ways you tackle long distance relationships!